STREAMING: Entrails — “Voices”

By: Posted in: featured, listen On: Wednesday, June 18th, 2014


For your streaming pleasure today we have a new/old track from Swedish death metal legends Entrails. “Voices” is from the upcoming Resurrected From The Grave demo collection, an 18-track compilation featuring Reborn and Human Decay.

The material was never released and is finally coming out many years later. The album is due next week; preorder it from Metal Blade.


Blood/Fire/Death: Watain douses Brooklyn

By: Sean Frasier Posted in: featured, live reviews On: Wednesday, June 18th, 2014


Brooklyn Night Bazaar – June 15th, 2014

Photography by Rodrigo Fredes of PhotoTerco

It was Father’s Day, so I arrived early and called my pops outside the venue. I informed him I was seeing a Swedish metal band named Watain shortly, who would likely spit animal blood at the audience. “Well have fun, enjoy your night,” was his mild reply, like I just said I was going out for Thai food. It’s tough to shock the parent of a metalhead.

It was my first time at the Brooklyn Bazaar, a sprawling indoor space with picnic tables and an arcade in a separate wing away from the stage. Ventilation was problematic so fans huddled below the ceiling fans for some relief from feeling like they were suffocating themselves just by breathing.

Local hallucination-conjurers Kosmodemonic opened the show with a stellar set of blackened doom and psychedelic sludge, jamming out for a too-short half hour. They had some cassettes at the merch table and I’ve learned that they’re limited to 200. Jump on them shits fast, because this is a band to watch. Mysterious black noise project T.O.M.B. followed with a brief set, lead by their anonymous (and hooded) mastermind. A quick Google search brings up the first two options for the acronym: Total Occultic Mechanical Blasphemy or The Old Man Band. I’ll let you guess which one played at a Watain show. [Hint: They appear on page 42 of dB issue #118.] Their abrasive industrial dirges felt like the churning gears of a doomsday device.


Promising a Bathory-approved “wild ceremony of blood, fire, and death,” the stage crew set up war banners and pyro-rigged sculptures that drew roars from the crowd each time they crawled with flames. Scheduled as a one-off show on North American soil, it’s their only date in the United States before a series of festival appearances throughout Europe. Taking the stage with “De Profundis,” Erik Danielsson screamed and gestured while wobbling side to side, eyes rolled back and face streaked with red. He delivered lyrics like he was the vessel of another (sinister) power, smirking at jokes only he heard, only regaining lucidity between cuts from The Wild Hunt and Lawless Darkness long enough to shout, “Brooklyn, New York!”


After “Malfeitor” roared to a close, Håkan Jonsson pounded a hypnotic beat while Danielsson drank from a horned skull chalice in front of a bone altar. He held the cup above his head to a chorus of cheers. That elation crashed into shrieks as he spat pig’s blood into the first few rows, with impressive projection. TMZ reported people vomiting and crying, but I witnessed nothing but people proudly showing off their stained shirts. From that chaos they redirected the manic energy into the well-received ballad, “Outlaw.” Watain have been working from this set list for a while for good reason, as the balance between fiery ragers and sky-punchers seems to take the audience’s stamina into account. Thrash and start shit in the pit, catch your breath and bang your head. “Black Flame March” specifically had the whole room chanting and throwing fists in unison.


There was certainly more fire and blood than the last Watain tour with In Solitude and Tribulation, but it wasn’t the orgiastic gorebath the venue may have secretly feared. A part of me was expecting people sloshing ankle-deep in blood, puke, and puked blood, slipping and sliding while trying to start circle pits. I pictured roadies extinguishing fires spreading on the stage as Danielsson watched the mayhem approvingly. What the crowd got instead was a band transforming a night market into a Satantic ritual, health hazard, and sanguinary spectacle. Those should be black metal prerequisites, according to some. After closing with “Holocaust Dawn,” Danielsson spoke unheard words to the bone altar as the band left in a procession. It was a suitably quiet moment of reflection as fog lifted from the middle of the floor and the crowd waited to provide their final cheers. The end of the ceremony.


With the crowd swarming to the exits, I knew my arm was doused, but wasn’t aware of the splatter across my face until I hopped in a photo booth. The lines for water to properly rinse off were long enough that I decided I’d rather stink like a slaughterhouse for the ride home than be inconvenienced a whole minute and a half. Sorry fellow subway commuters, I had to lie and tell you it was fake.

***Many thanks to Rodrigo Fredes for sharing his amazing photos. He braved the blood with some very nice equipment.

Sucker For Punishment: Kill Everyone Now, Metaphorically

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, June 18th, 2014


Way out here in Western Canada KEN Mode is an institution, always good for a pair of shown in your city annually, having built up a loyal following over the past decade. It’s been rewarding to see the Matthewson brothers turn this little noise/metal hybrid into something Decibel readers have become fans of, indie scenesters name-drop, and a band every festival from Roadburn to Hellfest to Pitchfork covets on its lineup. As strong as their records consistently are, their live performances are something to behold, and this past weekend I saw them once again with a packed bar of fellow victims willing to subject themselves to an all-out assault. Jesse Matthewson is one of the more confrontational vocalists you’ll ever see; you can see the whites of his maniacal eyes from the back of the room. Don’t move away, you’ll only upset it more. This was the band’s first show with new bassist Skot Hamilton – the band’s seventh major rager on the four string motherfucker – best known around these parts as the leader of Today is the Day protégés Adolyne, and along with the requisite fan-pleasers including the epic “Never Was”, they debuted a song from the forthcoming sixth album, which is currently in the writing process. What was so striking was how much it sidestepped the overt doom metal influence of the past couple albums, instead cranking up the noise and abrasiveness even more than these unabashed AmRep fans ever did before, bearing a closer similarity to Shellac and Drive Like Jehu. For me, that one crazy, unexpected twist amidst an hour’s worth of familiar tunes was encouraging. No matter who’s playing on bass, KEN Mode always evolves, and if that one song is any indication, the next album should be a fun one indeed. In the meantime, here’s hoping Skot doesn’t spontaneously combust and leave behind a green globule. At least for a while, anyway.

With summer just around the corner it feels like the metal scene is similarly gearing up, as the last new release week of spring is a fairly light load before another big load next week, but it’s not without a handful of very intriguing – and in one instance polarizing – albums to choose from. Read on: 

The Austerity Program, Beyond Calculation (Controlled Burn): A couple years after the unfortunate demise of Hydra Head Records, guitarist Justin Foley, bassist Thad Calabrese, and their trusty drum machine have found a new home at Controlled Burn, and their first full-length album since 2007’s Black Madonna treads the same path they always have, combining the churning, grinding skronk of Big Black with the mechanical power of Godflesh. What struck me, though, is how “Song 32” tosses in a little electronic minimalism to great effect, its restrained moments making the powerful movements even more impactful.

Barghest, The Virtuous Purge (Gilead): The second album by the Louisiana band is a marked improvement in production, finding a good balance between the filth of its earlier material and an overall sound that’s tidy enough to hear everything that’s being played. Most importantly, though, the songwriting is involving, accentuating its rote black metal arrangements with touches of death metal and doom laced with malevolence and misanthropy, with “When the Cross Points to Hell” serving as a sterling example of how potent this band can be when firing on all cylinders. For aficionados of underground black metal, this is one to seek out. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Boris, Noise (Sargent House): To its credit, Boris is never complacent. Eternally restless and prolific, the Japanese trio has developed such a stylistically rich palette from which to work, that you don’t know what they’re going to do next. Whether sludge, avant-garde drone, shoegaze, garage rock, J-pop; nothing is true, everything is permitted. It can result in wildly unfocused and sometimes tedious work as the band explores its latest indulgence, but when the band is on, the results can be electrifying, as on 2005’s Pink and the wonderful 2011 trifecta of New Album, Heavy Rocks, and Attention Please. 19th studio album Noise finds Boris returning to the heavier sludge sounds of Amplifier Worship, but this time around the past pop/shoegaze experiments looms large as well, as the bulk of the tracks here boast a much stronger sense of melody than the band’s earlier heavy work. On tracks like “Melody”, “Vanilla”, and the 18-minute mind-blower “Angel” you sense all those myriad influences coming together beautifully. At the same time, “Quicksilver” rampages like no Boris track has in years, Wata’s guitars filthy, Atsuo’s drumming relentless. You can never say a Boris album is “fully realized” because this band is so restless, so amorphous, but this is as complete-sounding a Boris album as you could possibly hope for in 2014.

Leather Chalice, Luna (Broken Limbs): Billed as a project that fuses black metal and post punk, that all might be true on this new EP, but the two sides don’t coalesce anywhere near as well as other bands that try the same thing. Plenty of promise is shown, however, especially during the 15-minute track’s more contemplative moments.

Lecherous Gaze, Zeta Reticuli Blues (Tee Pee): It’s going to be tough to follow up the rip-roaring “Bagagazo” off the Oakland band’s 2012 album On the Skids, but make no mistake, these guys’ obnoxious Black Oak Arkansas-meets-Nuggets music is just as exuberant on this new record. “New Distortion”, “Animal Brain”, and the scorching cover of “Baby Please Don’t Go” are a few terrific examples of how Lecherous Gaze have this heavy rock ‘n’ roll thing absolutely down.

Musk Ox, Woodfall (self-released): It’s hard to fathom that it’s already been seven years since the gorgeous debut album by classical guitarist Nathanaël Larochette, but in the wake of his guest appearances on Agalloch’s latest album the follow-up is finally out. It might not be metal, but it’s something that will easily appeal to fans of either black metal, pagan, metal, or the symphonic variety, Larochette’s plaintively plucked strings accentuated by violin and cello, adding richness and depth to an othwerwise minimalist record. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Profetus, As All Seasons Die (Svart): Nothing puts the “funeral” in funeral doom like a church organ. One problem with the genre is that the music can become too ponderous for its own good, its attempts at sounding anguished often going too far over the top with tortured growling and songs that go on for ten minutes too long. What this Finnish band does, in contrast, is scale down the arrangements, put keyboards on equal footing with guitars, and most impressively, make enough room for some truly beautiful, expressive guitar solos, as on the majestic “Dead Are Our Leaves of Autumn”. This is a classy, first-rate doom album that doesn’t deserve to slip between the cracks.

Rippikoulu, Ulvaja (Svart): This Finnish band had previously recorded a pair of obscure demos more than 20 years ago, but it’s been resurrected on a much higher profile and reputable stage, and this three-song EP is a solid, albeit unspectacular exercise in doom-tinged death metal. The slow, theatrical title track is particularly interesting, juxtaposing female choral voices amidst the ugliness.

The Soft Pink Truth, Why Do the Heathen Rage? (Thrill Jockey): Black metal can be great. Take the new Mayhem record, for instance, which ingeniously defies convention and reinvents something the band played a vital role in creating. But black metal can be stupid. Very, very stupid. Whether addressing one’s purported Nazi affiliations with an hilarious, rambling, neither-here-nor-there explanation, excusing idiotic behavior by citing “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” bullshit, getting on TMZ by ripping off W.A.S.P. in front of Brooklyn scenesters who haven’t a clue, or being paid a lucrative sum for reuniting with a homophobic murderer drummer, there’s been a whole hell of a lot of stupidity in 2014. So the arrival of a collection of gay house renditions of black metal classics by musician Drew Daniel couldn’t be better timed, as black metal hasn’t been more ripe and deserving of a skewering in ages. A well-schooled devotee of black metal, Daniel confronts the paradox of the music he loves – as a gay man listening to music clouded by a hateful history – calling this album “a celebration, critique, mockery, and profanation” of black metal. And indeed, Why Do the Heathen Rage? is all of the above, confounding, sloppy, brilliant, and enthralling, as he takes tracks by Venom, Sarcofago, Darkthrone, Hellhammer, and more, rendering them unrecognizable, and often transforming the songs into something completely new and creative. The reaction to the album has been already greeted with extreme negativity from the underground black metal set, so based on that alone you can call this album a success. One thing’s for certain, it’s one of the boldest extreme metal exercises at a time where nowhere near enough risks are taken.

Trepaneringsritualen & Sutekh Hexen, One Hundred Year Storm (Pesanta Urfolk): The Oakland black metal/noise outfit collaborated with Swedish industrial thingy Trepaneringsritualen for a special performance in 2013, which, conveniently, was recorded and has been released on vinyl. It’s exactly what you expect it to sound like, a blend of the melodic and the atonal, contemplative drones accentuated by clattering discord and spooky growling. To everyone’s credit, the hour-long performance ebbs and flows comfortably enough, that is until two people suddenly clap and go, “Woooo!” At that point the mystique is stripped away. It was working for a while there, though.

Wo Fat, The Conjuring (Small Stone): The Dallas trio has always shown great potential with its hazy psychedelic doom, but it all comes together in brilliant fashion on this fifth album. A series of the kind of swinging stoner grooves that get a crowd moving, not just killing one another, this record gets better once the band locks into one of those grooves and just goes, the rhythm section churning away, blues-derived guitar solos bringing expression and genuine soul to the otherwise bombastic music. Justin Norton premiered the album on the Deciblog last week, and I highly recommend you give it a listen. It’s a keeper.

Not metal, but worth hearing:

Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence (Interscope): Oh yes, I’m going there. Lizzy Grant’s carefully-honed alterego Lana Del Rey was an inexplicable global success, listeners transfixed by her postmodern, self-referential torch songs, as well as her undeniably spellbinding image, part teen model, part femme fatale, singing detachedly about sex and videogames. What makes her second album so extraordinary is its sheer surrealism, how positively David Lynchian it is. It occupies a weird world like that of Diane Selwyn’s dream of Betty Elms, quixotic and pretty but just barely masking a horrible, horrible darkness underneath. You’re swept away by lush, Spector-meets-Badalamenti arrangements and Del Rey’s dulcet singing, but whether it’s on the Lou Reed-esque “Brooklyn Baby”, the ambitious “Cruel World”, or the sensational slow-burner “West Coast”, you keep sensing the blue box will unlock at any time and unleash hell. As for those headbangers who’ll complain that Del Rey is nothing more than a vapid, contrived persona, what do you think your clown makeup-wearing black metal heroes are?

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

Life to False Metal: Perturbator’s Dangerous Days

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: featured, free, listen, videos On: Tuesday, June 17th, 2014


Okay, Perturbator’s Dangerous Days is obviously a retro 80s electro album, but it’s got a giant fuckoff pentagram on the cover and robots and a woman in a sexually compromised position, and that if that isn’t metal, what is? Besides, and this is the important thing, the vibe is metal. It may be synthesizer-based with dance beats, but it’s dark and creepy and overwhelming and clearly influenced by 80s horror and science fiction movies. It’s even got Satan manifested as a computer. If open-minded metalheads can accept bands like Zombi into the fold, why not this? The vinyl and CD editions are sold out already, but stream it below and then get a digital download at Bandcamp for whatever price you want (don’t be a cheapass). Shit, it’s more metal than the latest Wolves in the Throne Room.

Look What HE Did: Get Ripped the Barry Donegan Way

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs On: Tuesday, June 17th, 2014


Those who enjoy the antics of kaleidoscopic everything-and-the-kitchen-sink chaos metallers Look What I Did may or may not be aware of two things: 1) Zanzibar III: Analog Prison, the band’s long-gestating, much-anticipated rock opera follow-up to the straight-out awesome Atlas Drugged is “perilously close to having a release date” and 2) frontman Barry Donegan is suddenly, insanely fucking ripped.

Obviously, these tantalizing tidbits require a two birds/one stone response. Which is why this morning we’ve packaged together the video for a nutty Zanzibar track entitled “Brigham Young And David Koresh Rally The Troops On The Moon” along with a weightlifting playlist for metalheads curated by Donegan — who, by the way, offers online consulting with custom training plans to anyone, anywhere interested in getting into the other shred. (Hit him up via Facebook.)

By way of introduction, here are some thoughts from Donegan on getting hardcore into physical fitness and weightlifting:

DVD Review and Exclusive Excerpt: Fool ‘Em All

By: Posted in: exclusive, featured, videos On: Monday, June 16th, 2014


When they released the DVD Majesty five years ago The Black Dahlia Murder proved that not only did they understand their fans, they understood how to make a watchable documentary. On their second DVD Fool ‘Em All our tour co-headliners take it another step. Not only do they make you laugh, they make you care about what happens to them. Fear not: the nudity, intoxication and stupidity are still there. Tazers also show up on the tour bus. But what makes Fool ‘Em All work is that in the end it’s about the bond a band shares on the road and in life.

Fool ‘Em All finds The Black Dahlia Murder in the period right after our “Mature Themes” feature appeared in the July 2013 edition. They’re on the road with the Vans Warped tour, playing to different audiences. The editors made the smart decision to focus not just on the nuttiness (although there is plenty). If there was any flaw to Majesty it was that you didn’t learn much about the band outside that they like to behave badly. Fool ‘Em All expertly shows what makes each band member tick. Vocalist Trevor Strand is a death metal addict and record nerd who geeks out when he hangs with L.G. Petrov of Entombed. Guitarist Brian Eschbach is the brains behind the madness who keeps things afloat with unusual business savvy. Bassist Max Lavelle is the friendly guy who lifts weights in his downtime and Ryan Knight is the guitar savant who gives BDM a new level of musicality.

The star of Fool ‘Em All is undoubtedly new drummer Alan Cassidy. You can’t help but like the guy. He does a horrible job of trying to pick up women and is teased restlessly. He enters a drum competition and wins over a crowd of non-death metal fans. And he never seems less than genuinely thrilled to be playing drums for what he calls “his favorite band.”

Yes, there are plenty of tour antics but those are best saved for viewing. The 3-D gimmick is also used just enough so it’s funny without being aggravating. By the close of Fool ‘Em All you feel like The Black Dahlia Murder are a bunch of old friends. You wouldn’t want them dating your daughters, but you’d have them over for a beer.

Order Fool ‘Em All from Metal Blade.


Markus Siegenhort (Lantlôs) interviewed

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, June 16th, 2014


** When I cornered Lantlôs braintrust Markus Siegenhort (aka Herbst), I didn’t expect him to be so un-German. Whatever that means. Like the meaning behind the word “lantlôs” Siegenhort is more like a global guy, his music unmoored from the traps of what has been and will continue to be German black metal. Not that there’s anything wrong with German black metal. Lantlôs’ new album, Melting Sun, is just a step in a different direction, more influenced by Hum and Deftones than anything particularly evil and/or Teutonic. The interview with Siegenhort appeared in DB #116 [HERE]. Here’s the full transcript.

There’s a pretty big change in sound from Agape to Melting Sun. Why is that?
Markus Siegenhort: When I started this band I was 16-years old. I’ve changed so much as a person. With all my points of view, my habits, I’ve gotten older. I see things differently. Since my music is 100% connected with my personal life, it had to change. No conscious decision. It’s just an evolution.

It feels like an evolution, actually.
Markus Siegenhort: Right. It’s change. It’s progression. It felt alright to change. I’m kind of glad we’re not recording the same album over and over again I guess we’re trying something new and innovative. For us.

Well, the big thing is Neige is no longer screaming or part of Lantlôs. Why is that?
Markus Siegenhort: With the new material, I felt our old singer—Neige from Alcest—would suit it. He has a great voice. We really didn’t want screaming vocals on this album. It would feel odd. It didn’t suit the music. He also lacked time. So, we parted ways. I told him I wanted to do the singing. By experimenting in the studio, I eventually became more confident in my vocal abilities. It all felt natural. I felt confident enough by the time I was recording the vocals. Totally. That’s for certain.

What is influencing you at this stage? Musically.
Markus Siegenhort: What has influenced me for a long time is Kayo Dot’s Choirs of the Eye. It’s such a huge production, there’s so many influences, it’s so flowing, the arrangements are perfect. It left an impression on me. Something I could take away, like different structures, slow parts. I know the album has aged, but it left an impression on me. The Deftones also left an impression on me. Two or three years ago. There’s lots of ‘90s stuff like Hum. Some of their songs. I like Smashing Pumpkins. Stuff from today is good, too. Like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. All the old shoegazer stuff gives me shivers. Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. The sunny and flashy stuff from the ‘90s. It finally reached me. Dreampop, shoegaze, and noisy stuff had an impact on this album. It’s kind of a ‘90s thing.

Melting Sun feels very organized. Musically and lyrically.
Markus Siegenhort: I didn’t write logical things, actually. They’re just words that provoke strong images in me. If I get a feeling in my chest, I feel the need to print it to paper. They’re just words on paper. They give me feelings. They’re not logical though. They’re not physical either. They’re feelings I have. The words, or titles, reflect my feelings. I can’t explain why I chose the titles.

It’s a bright album. Much different from your previous records. The artwork reflects this, too.
Markus Siegenhort: Some people told me it’s a very dark album. I was like, “Pfft!” I don’t see many dark moments at all. I was totally astonished when I heard that. It’s a 100% summer album. I wrote it about trips we had in the mountains, during evenings in the summer. We’d have BBQs, with great people, all those things. I sensed the energy of summer and sun for the first time when I wrote these songs. When I was younger I felt the world was shit. All of a sudden, the world brightened up. This album is a dedication to those days, to the sun, to this very ethereal way of experiencing summer. I think you know what I mean.

How much did drugs, or the after effects of drugs, influence you this time around?
Markus Siegenhort: Well, sometimes I would get high. I’m not promoting it and I’m not too proud of it, but it had a strong impact. Look at the title. Look at the imagery. It’s all pretty spaced out. It’s pretty obvious what has influenced me.

So, this is your first full band, right?
Markus Siegenhort: Sort of. It’s basically me writing the songs. My drummer [Felix Wylezik] didn’t help me with the songwriting, but he helped me a lot with the production. Sounds, arrangements, and those kinds of things. We produced the album together. We worked a lot together. It’s more me and my drummer. The other guys are more helping out with live shows.

Where did you do the production? It sounds great.
Markus Siegenhort: We recorded this on our own, in my own studio. I did the mix and the production. I feel like the songs depend a lot on the production. We were going for something organic and thick. Nothing too over-produced. There’s some drum triggering, a tiny bit on the snare. The rest is totally natural. The guitars, there’s no digital stuff. No synthesizers. It’s a proper sound, coming out of an amp. We tried to keep it natural and powerful. The whole production took a year, with some breaks. I gave a lot for this. A lot of sweat to work this out. We were always enhancing, discarding things, putting vocal lines here and there. It was worth the work. It was a lot of fun. I’m very satisfied with the result. It’s our best production yet.

** Lantlôs’ new album, Melting Sun, is out now on Prophecy Productions. It’s available HERE. If heavy, dreamy, and awesome are things you dig, well, search out Lantlôs.

STREAMING: Finntroll “Ursvamp (Live)”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Friday, June 13th, 2014


Natten Med De Levande Finntroll, Finntroll’s new album, translates to “Night With The Living Finntroll”. It spans a massive 19 tracks across the group’s discography. Captured in 2008 at Amsterdam’s Melkweg Concert Hall, the Natten Med De Levande Finntroll show went down as one of the group’s best. It’s fitting then that Finntroll’s original three–Trollhorn, Skrymer, and Tundra–see out the group’s 17-year history in proverbial style with their first live album. Luckily for us Finntroll didn’t call it Finnalive or Troll Lives! or Exit Stage Troll.

OK, we’ve rambled enough. Imbibe in the free-wheeling, perpetually inebriated Finntroll in the flesh, stinking codpieces, furry boots, and whatever else they wear on-stage. Bring on “Ursvamp”!

** Finntroll’s new album, Natten Med De Levande Finntroll, is out June 17th on Spinefarm Records. It’s available HERE if your pointy ears dare!

Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack: Boston’s Barren Oak

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, June 13th, 2014


Because every day another band records another song.  Because 83% of those songs are unlistenable and you can’t be bothered to sift through the dreck.  Because metal is about not giving a shit and waking your own personal storm.  Because music is universal, expression is boundless, and even indie labels (whatever that means these days) don’t know everything, Decibel brings you Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack.


Taking time off from real work in the service of metal is undeniably satisfying, and when it’s Maryland Deathfest I’m… um, servicing… it can feel like there’s no greater calling.  Perks include shredding ears with top-shelf bands from around the globe, supplying the Decibel and Bazillion Points crews with bottled water and meeting musicians and music-lovers who are (mostly) beside themselves with the excitement of dozens of merch tables and the gritty-grimy euphoria of heavy music camaraderie.

This year, I happened to be skulking around the Decibel table when Alx from Barren Oak dropped by with his band’s recent EP, Dead to All Sensory Perception.  I’m always happy to give new music a spin, and was especially intrigued when he described the band as “some post-metal and black metal with two basses and no guitar.”  Turns out, the EP delivers just that – an interesting blend of playing styles that suffers not at all for its strange instrumentation.

In a subsequent email, I asked Alx to talk a bit about his experience with Barren Oak, which he was certainly happy to do.  His initial response included some of the band’s stage quirks (“Our live performances used to have baskets of sour candy and razorblades on stage”) and Alx’s file sharing background.  Check out Barren Oak’s sound and find out more about the adventurous trio by reading below.

Black metal featuring bass is already a new-school concept, but two basses?  How did the members of Barren Oak get together and decide to record this material as a guitar-less trio?

Aside from the Greek black metal band Necromantia, which focused on an extended range bass guitar as the primary sound catalyst, there haven’t been many other bands I’ve heard of that use that arrangement. With extended range basses that have 6 or more strings, bass guitars can do more than carry the rhythm and bust out the odd solo, and can be used as a melodic lead device. I was writing some solo project material in 2010 on a 7-string bass and decided to try playing it with a drummer. “Blissful Self Violence” (track #1) was the first track written, and the melodic tapped part in the first half of the song naturally flowed into the darker second half as we jammed it out. Over the following months, we wrote some more songs and tried out 3 different guitar players, but it wasn’t until Andrew played bass with us that we felt that the right sound had been achieved.

How and when did you start playing augmented basses?

I played piano for many years, then guitar and bass around 2000.  Four strings felt too limited to me, I kept coming up with ideas that led to me running out of frets and strings. The 6 string bass was nearly enough, but with an extra higher string I was able to produce chords and get the sound I wanted out of my guitar. Paired with some rack effects, I have a large range of freedom in sounds. Jean Baudin (Nuclear Rabbit) and Chaoth (Unexpect) are hugely inspiring to me in showing what is possible in the world of extended range bass playing. I bought a Conklin 7 string bass in 2009 and I’m still very pleased with it.

Alongside the more obvious black metal sections, you include occasionally jazzy runs and post-metal bits… what musical avenues are you interested in pursuing within the context of Barren Oak?

Our philosophy is to never place limits on what can be done in the context of songwriting or performance. We find inspiration through many different kinds of music, and it sometimes feels like we’re boiling the ocean when trying to put it all together. Dead To All Sensory Perception is a prelude on what’s to come. We are open to testing out new ideas as they come up, but will always return to the introspective solace of black metal.

What inspires you vocally?  I’m especially interested in the clean vocals and what turned you on to singing that way.

Bands like Empyrium and Agalloch inspire me in how I shape the few clean vocal sections we have. I enjoy singing clean vocals as much as harsh vocals, and try to give equal attention to the intensity of both. I shape my harsh vocals to be cutting and visceral, not monotonous like an Inquisition sound. It works well for them, but not for what we’re going for. I write some lyrics in Russian because I think it is a beautiful language that at times, fits the music better than English.

Can you reflect on the ideas and writing process that drove each of the three main songs on Dead to All Sensory Perception?

The overarching theme in all the songs is expanding upon the imagery that goes through one’s head while they are contemplating suicide. Most of the lyrics were written either late at night when my mind won’t stop, or while riding public transportation. There’s a common link of depression and hatred inherent in both of those, I guess. My writing process usually starts with getting a rough version of the lyrics down, then the riffs pretty much seep out of the words. It’s a bit autistic like when someone sees sounds and hears colors. I hear music when I read what I’ve written.

Why the candy and razorblades at your live show?  What gave you the idea to do that, and what do you like about continuing the tradition?

We did it as a joke for about a year, in response to the “most evil fuck off band” pissing contest that many black metal bands play into. Two straw baskets on stage filled with razorblades and sour candies (warheads, fireballs, and sour patch kids). Eventually the baskets got destroyed and all the contents ran out, but not before a few people cut themselves. Metal is about freedom and self-expression to us, whether that be realization of suicidal thoughts or trivial whimsy.

Do you have a particular philosophy about music sharing, based on your history with the digital file sharing scene?

The “buy it if you like it” sentiment is the only thing that makes sense in the age of digital file sharing. I have always made the releases of any band I played in available on the internet for free download. Better to properly encode and name the tracks than have some dickhead re-encode from a low bitrate source. File sharing is what exposed me to musical concepts I otherwise would have never come across, so even if I made a career out of music, I would be a hypocrite to speak ill of it. Some say that file sharing has oversaturated the online music world with a lot of mediocrity, but I would argue that it’s a good thing. It turns people off to recklessly downloading any random release they see, but instead they’re prone to read up or ask a friend who knows before choosing to download. If you’d like to download instead of just stream, head over to and find our EP. If you like it, buy it on Bandcamp or get the physical CD through our webstore.

For more Barren Oak, check out their Facebook page here.

Expain – Vancouver Band Acts Like Wise Acres, Premiere’s New Song and Eviscerates Classic Tune

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: exclusive, featured, listen, stupid crap, videos On: Thursday, June 12th, 2014

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So, this band from Vancouver called Expain (formerly known as The Almighty Excruciating Pain), who are as indebted to thrash as they are to quick-change jazz, Weired Al Yankovic’s discography and dusty recordings of the old Doctor Demento radio show, has a new album coming out. It’s self-released (well, sort of, as it was aided in part by a crowdfunding campaign), called Just the Tip and if you, like a good friend of mine does, have a real problem with humour in your metal, you’d best slump your shoulders in defeat and take a long walk around whatever po-dunk town you call home because, well, the album is fucking called Just the Tip. And if that doesn’t ‘tip’ you off, slink on over to the photos section of their facebook page and try and find a shot where someone isn’t mugging or pulling some goofy pose for the camera. And if that doesn’t drop enough clues in your lap, know that the band also have their own comedy webseries.

The occasion of this particular blog post is to premiere a track from said album entitled “Allegiance to Pain” which, considering I’m telling you about this and you can listen to the track below, is technically what’s up. However, in rooting around and finding out bit more about this band, I stumbled across their cover and video and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Let the ridiculousness begin!

A brief example of some of their mugging…
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Just the Tip, the cover…
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